Saliva is your mouth’s primary defense against tooth decay. It washes away debris and food that could cause cavities; neutralizes harmful acids produced by bacteria in plaque; and aids in digestion. Without adequate saliva, many irritating — and sometimes serious — oral health problems can occur.
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is an oral health problem that occurs when the mouth’s salivary glands don’t produce sufficient saliva. It can be uncomfortable, disruptive and lead to complications including bad breath, difficulty eating, mouth sores and increased risk for tooth decay.
To help you eliminate this unpleasant condition, here’s a look at the common causes of dry mouth and simple ways you can improve saliva production.
Common Causes of Dry Mouth
In most cases, dry mouth is the symptom of a medical disorder or a side effect of one or more medications. For instance, dry mouth can be a common symptom of medical conditions such as diabetes and many autoimmune disorders. Similarly, prescription medications such as anti-depressants and antihistamines can contribute to dry mouth by slowing saliva production or thickening saliva.
Sometimes, dry mouth can result from daily habits, such as not drinking enough water, drinking too much coffee or smoking cigarettes. Your dentist can give you personalized recommendations to help you manage dry mouth with simple lifestyle changes.
Easy Ways to Combat Dry Mouth
If you suffer from dry mouth, there are some important steps you can take to improve your condition and reduce the risk of dental problems.
- Stay hydrated: In some cases, improving dry mouth symptoms can be as simple as drinking more water throughout the day.
- Quit smoking: Smokers frequently experience dry mouth. By quitting, you can significantly reduce the symptoms of dry mouth while also avoiding other serious health problems associated with cigarettes.
- Adjust medications: If certain medications are causing dry mouth, work with your doctor to modify the dosage or prescription.
- Use a humidifier: Consider sleeping with a humidifier in your bedroom to keep the air moist in your indoor environment.
- Modify your diet: Did you know that the foods you regularly consume can have a big impact on the severity of your dry mouth symptoms? Try the following to eliminate dry mouth and increase saliva production in the mouth.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol when possible
- Limit foods and drinks that are highly acidic or that have a lot of sugar
- Chew sugar-free gum, especially after meals, to increase saliva production in the mouth
- Commit to good oral hygiene: Lastly, it is important that you maintain good, daily dental health habits, such as brushing and flossing. Poor oral hygiene can exacerbate dry mouth symptoms and contribute to more serious health issues.
Remember, tooth decay can advance much more quickly in a mouth that is dry. If you suffer from dry mouth, talk to your dentist about your symptoms. Your dentist can help you figure out why you may have insufficient saliva production and customize the most effective treatment plan for you.